By Ken StoneA protest is planned Sunday at the La Mesa police station — two weeks after arson and looting followed a similar rally that fueled its own controversy.
“The La Mesa Police Department is aware of the event,” said police spokesman Lt. Greg Runge. “We’re making every effort to reach out to the event organizer for further information to ensure we have appropriate resources on hand to facilitate a safe and peaceful exercise of the group’s First Amendment rights.”
In a press release Saturday, the police department added that it, along with mutual aid partners across San Diego County, “will respond should the event transition to an unlawful assembly. This information has been provided to the citizens and business owners of La Mesa for their planning purposes.”
Thursday on Twitter, social-justice crusader Tasha Williamson posted a flier titled “Unity Protest to Welcome Unity Ride.”
It said the 1 p.m. protest at the University Avenue address of the La Mesa Police Department would demand the firing of Officer Matt Dages. Critics want him charged with the “wrongful arrest and assault of [Amaurie] Johnson” in the May 27 incident near the Grossmont Trolley Station.
Join us this Sunday! Read the flyers and share them! We are Peaceful! We are Unified! We Want JUSTICE! pic.twitter.com/ANUCUE0sJY
— Tasha Williamson (@LoveForgivPeace) June 11, 2020
(In the wake of bodycam footage being released on the incident, no charges were filed against Johnson, 23, and Dages was put on administrative leave.)
Sunday’s protest also seeks the naming and arrest of the La Mesa officer whose beanbag shots left protester Leslie Furcron, 59, hospitalized for 10 days and blind in one eye.
And the group wants the La Mesa City Council to hold an “open, public town hall to hear and follow the demands of the people it swears to serve.”
But Scott McMillan, an organizer of the La Mesa Civil Defense private group on Facebook, said it wasn’t his group’s role to judge the organizers’ demands.
“Our position is that they are entitled to make those demands as part of their free speech rights,” he said. “La Mesa certainly needs to arrange an open meeting where live presentation, either through video conference or outdoors, can take place, where these or any other comments can be made to the City Council.”
He didn’t appear fazed by a protest at the scene of tear gas and rock-throwing on May 30 that followed hours of peaceful chanting and speeches.
“We expect that the folks that come out will engage in the exercise of their rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the right to free speech under our California Constitution,” he said via email.
Williamson, the former candidate for San Diego mayor, has been outspoken against La Mesa police, and called Dages a rogue officer who “desecrated and dishonored” his badge. She didn’t respond to Times of San Diego requests for comment.
(She’s also promoting a petition to defund the San Diego Police Department.)
On the La Mesa Civil Defense page, KH posted: “Just another excuse to start another riot.” MA added: “Concerns? Yeah, I hope it rains.”
But on another La Mesa Facebook page, CJ pushed back on critics of the planned protest: “Maybe some of us who are concerned about the threat of violence can go and exercise our own First Amendment rights in support [of] those protesters who are there for a peaceful demonstration, back those trying to prevent the violence.”
The commenter continued: “We don’t have to agree on the reason for the protest to help them and keep our community from descending into chaos again.”
Sunday’s protest in La Mesa is being paired with another at noon in the Rite Aid parking lot at 1735 Euclid Ave. in the Ridgeview/Webster area of San Diego. It’s titled “San Diego Motorcycle Set” and says: “All clubs and riders welcome.”
A Black Lives Matter march is set for 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday — starting at the San Diego Zoo and ending at the San Diego Police Department headquarters at 1401 Broadway, according to a flier being circulated on social media.
On Saturday, at least two protests are planned — a “safe march” from Pacific Beach to Mission Beach and a noon to 3 p.m. march and rally at Waterfront Park at the San Diego County Administration Center.
The “Defund the Police. Fund the People!” rally at the harborfront center is hosted by the Party for Socialism and Liberation San Diego and seven other activist groups.
Updated at 12:23 p.m. June 13, 2020
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